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Mindfulness: Wake Up & Smell The Coffee!

"WAKEY WAKEY!"
When did you have your last cup of coffee? Did you notice the feel of the cup in your hand; the aroma as you brought it closer; the heat of the coffee on your lips and tongue; the set of flavours? I doubt it, but all those aspects of drinking that coffee were available if you wanted to notice them.

By now you've probably heard of the term mindfulness even though for most people in the west (including many psychologists) it's taken around 3000 years for us to become aware of it. It is of course originally a Buddhist practice but now mainstream psychology has grasped it and so you'll find therapies based on it, many courses training it and lots of books written about it. They even teach it to the U.S. Marines.

So what is it and what's it got to do with performing at your best in the restaurant?

Like many of these things, it's very simple but not easy to practice; Mindfulness means paying attention in the present moment and without judgment. We all spend much of our waking (and working) day captivated by our thoughts and feelings about things that are in either the past or the future rather than now. How much of your day so far has been occupied with pursuing thoughts about things that have already happened or might happen sometime? Do you often get anxious? There are many things you could worry about; what might go wrong tomorrow; how the new team member will perform today; will the numbers add up to meet your target by month end; etc etc.

To be anxious your mind must, almost by definition,be focused on the future. You're not anxious about things that are happening right now, you're coping with the event! In fact you might even be trying to deal with the event but at the same time letting your thoughts drift backwards and forwards from between what happened before this and what could happen soon. Someone just sent out a report with uncorrected errors. Your mind takes you back to memories of this happening before, 3 times! You can imagine how the readers are going to start sending back those derisory emails any minute now - you can imagine what they're saying to each other.
This is one route to stress: thoughts about the past trigger thoughts about catastrophes in the future which cause stressful bodily changes as well as unhelpful behaviour; all about something that isn't even happening right now - it's a mind game! It certainly won't help resolve the flawed report that's in front of you now.

An important and less widely understood aspect of Mindfulness is that there is no intention to change anything; you just become aware of all that is NOW. That will include becoming aware that your mind has gone to the past and raced to the future. You become more aware that they are just thoughts. It will include becoming aware of the changes in your body ("tension in my neck and shoulders; heart rate is up" etc). Being mindful, you can accept what's happening simply as reality and then the stress may well reduce  - but that's just a useful 'side effect', not the intention of being mindful.

In a previous blog we talked about professional athletes getting 'in the Zone' to be at their best and part of that 'zone' is a focus on the present moment. They don't think about winning or losing when they are performing - the outcome is in the future but their performance is NOW. They are effectively doing Mindful running/swimming/driving etc.
Do you do Mindful leading? Meanwhile if you are paying careful attention to what you are actually hearing when the report's author explains his mistake and you are aware of your own prejudices and frustrations that you are experiencing right now, then you might also make a Mindful choice of response!

The fact is, we do most things unconsciously as habits because it would be almost impossible to be aware of everything all the time.  Obviously, in business there is also great value in thinking about the past to learn from it and about the future to plan it but would it be better to choose the times you do that?

Start your Mindfulness practice by just taking 1 minute (anyone can find 1 minute to spare) when your mind is racing and set the timer on your phone and become Mindful of your body, your emotions, your thoughts and your behaviour during that 1 minute.

 


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Spare a thought for all those chefs working on airline food - and not forgetting the sommeliers working on the wine. When you know that altitude changes the responsiveness of your taste buds and your smell receptors you can immediately see that their job might be a bit harder than yours! 

Then when you add in that sounds change taste (think constant jet engine noise).......

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Can You Teach Someone To Be Creative?...You Can
This piece from the Harvard Business Review caught my eye as I've worked with a number of teams to develop their creativity (so I kind of knew that answer already!)


This article makes some good points about the need for feedback (we develop forums for sharing and critiquing) and about team balance.

I love the quote from Picasso, "Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist"

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Workaholic or Hero?
"...most successful people I know do work long hours and not because they’re addicted to work but because they make a conscious choice..."

It's always useful to challenge positions that are becoming received wisdom or the norm and here's an article that does just that.

I don't remember the term 'workaholic' being used until I was well into my first career. Now it has become an obvious truth that working long hours is bad. Yet I remember one client asking what was the recommended work/life balance in terms of hours at work. What could I say?

Of course it depends on you....long hours in the office sometimes are  unavoidable but f you're enjoying it too then you're probably on to a winner!

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The Power Of Belief
The placebo effect is what we're all familiar with by now - the fact that a Dr can give you a sugar pill but you still get all the benefit of a drug. This can be very useful of course. Now a lot of research is being done on a kind of opposite; the 'nocebo' effect where even though the Dr gave you a sugar pill and you got the benefit, you also got all the nasty side effects the real drug can have

This just illustrates the power of beliefs and I wonder what IS possible for your team and what they BELIEVE is possible?

“Negative expectations can be communicated to your friends, neighbors, and the like, and they spread very quickly, producing social nocebo effects in a large population of subjects,”


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